Bella McCloud recently moved to Hawaii, a place she found so beautiful and perfect on a trip there that she cried the entire way home to Southern California. With her two kids out of the house and her Ph.D. in psychology well on its way to completion, she resolved to realize her dream. Then the 57-year-old was diagnosed with cancer.
“When [the doctor] came in with those frightening statics, I didn’t feel so good,” she says. “When I came here, I didn’t know whether I was staying … but [I thought], right now I don’t have a house here any more, but I have a ticket and I have my animals, so I’m going. And I’m so glad I did, because I’m where I’m supposed to be.”
A strong believer in both spirituality and the power of manifesting your dreams, McCloud spent most of her life raising her daughters, teaching yoga, and looking up to women who aged gracefully and powerfully. “I’ve always had a vision of myself growing cooler, staying relevant, and staying current,” she says. “I have collected older women my whole life who amazed me and were a model of what I would like to be. And they all have some commonalities of being independent, thinking out of the box — living their lives how they see fit.”
“I have collected older women my whole life who amazed me and were a model of what I would like to be.”
After her divorce, McCloud thought long and hard about a bold decision she had to make: whether she’d invest in getting her Ph.D. in psychology. She had been drawn to psychology both as an inquisitive person obsessed with how the mind works and as a career path where her age could only benefit her. “The older I get, there’s more benefit, because you learn more, you go through more and develop more compassion and understanding — and with that the ability to connect and help people from deep inside,” she says.
Her dissertation is on deconstructing the women whom she so looks up to, those who “have chosen to forgo the cultural pressure to dye their hair and have embraced their silvers, their wisdom … because it’s a hard thing to do in this culture.” She’s finishing it in Hawaii, where she now has a piece of property.
“I don’t see an ‘over the hill,’ and maybe I’m naïve,” she says. “I don’t see an up and a down; I see this linear upward trajectory to life.”
And the cancer? Post surgery, it’s gone — and without any chemotherapy.
Here are some things I learned from interviewing McCloud that I wanted to share with you.
Think It Through
“I talked to a lot of people because I was afraid. The Ph.D. education was a big commitment and cost a lot of money. But I thought, what else would I do? And I couldn’t think of anything else I would do that would give me the life that I wanted or felt I was meant to live. So some things I’ve learned is that you shouldn’t ask other people what you should do. Only you can know. And that answer comes from listening and trusting and acting upon your voice.”
“I’m innately a huge researcher. So when I have a question, I’m crazed in research around it. But then. after I’ve finished, I stop thinking. and I know that it’s percolating in my subconscious and the answers come. And I made the right choice.”
Live the Expansive Life
“Ask yourself when you’re facing some of those decisions, ‘What is the expansive choice and what is the constrictive choice?’ And then ask yourself whether you want to expand or constrict. And I think it’s an obvious answer.”